Proudly South African Nanosatellites to be Launched by Elon Musk’s Space-X Today
Proudly South African Nanosatellites to be Launched by Elon Musk’s Space-X Today. Photo: Twitter / Space-X

In a first for the African continent, three maritime-focussed nano-satellites from South Africa are expected to be launched into orbit on Thursday afternoon by SA expat Elon Musk’s Space-X in the USA.

The three nanosatellites – the first to be entirely developed on the African continent – will be launched from Cape Canaveral at about 5.25pm.

Image Credit: SANews

The three satellites form part of the Department of Science and Innovation’s (DSI) Maritime Domain Awareness Satellite (MDASat) constellation.

Team member Ian van Zyl tweeted on Tuesday: “Proud South Africa moment: 3 South African satellites, built by our team (my colleagues) in Cape Town, are being launched by @SpaceX on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle this Thursday, the 13th. Fingers crossed, Mr @elonmusk!! #Transporter3 #falcon9 #SpaceX #satellites #CubeSat #ISILaunch36P”

When complete, the constellation will comprise of nine satellites which, according to the department, will “detect, identify and monitor vessels in near real-time in support of South African maritime domain awareness”.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, described the launch of the constellation satellite as a significant milestone for the country.

“This will further cement South Africa’s position as an African leader in small satellite development, and help the country to capture a valuable share of a niche market in the fast-growing global satellite value chain.”

Nzimande added that although South Africa is making strides in the space industry, specialised skills are needed to take it forward.

He said the department has developed a human capital development programme based at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology; called the cube satellite (CubeSat) programme; which seeks to remedy the lack of professionals and skills in the industry.

“As part of this programme, students are taught engineering principles using CubeSats as training tools. CubeSats are built using the same engineering principles as any other satellite, hence highly specialised and advanced skills are acquired through this programme,” he said. –

Space-X will be streaming the launch: